FILM REVIEW — “Gran Turismo” takes the checkered flag

Published 12:04 am Friday, September 1, 2023

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“Gran Turismo”

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Starring Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, Orlando Bloom, Darren Barnet, Geri Halliwell and Djimon Hounsou

Rated PG-13

3 Stars

I’m not a huge fan of motorsports. The closest I ever came to this sport was at the Pinewood Derby back in my Boy Scouts days.

Sure, I’ll watch a clip of a fiery crash online, but I just don’t care enough about that particular brand of entertainment to spend hours watching cars go round and round on a track.

That’s why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the new motorsports movie, “Gran Turismo.” Despite its sports movie genre underpinnings, this is a really engaging drama about a working-class kid putting everything on the line for a chance to become an actual race car driver.

Sure, it has a few of those fiery crashes seeded throughout the movie to keep the audience excited, but it’s the underdog story of this dreamer that really makes the film worthwhile.

Archie Madekwe stars as Jann Mardenborough, a kid who loves playing the “Gran Turismo” video game for hours up in his room, much to the dismay of his parents (Djimon Hounsou and Gerri Halliwell).

He gets a chance to put his gamer skills to the test through a competition that is designed to give an anonymous video game driver the chance to prove his abilities on a real-life track.

Obviously, Jann is destined to win, this is an underdog sports movie that’s based on a real driver, after all. Still, it won’t be an easy journey. Jann will have to compete with a handful of other gamers vying for a shot, as well as win the respect of the skeptical engineer (David Harbour) who oversees the training the drivers.

He’ll also need to best the other racers who are determined to knock the new kid out of the race.

That’s no small task, and the way that Jann deals with all of these challenges gives the film much of its appeal. Madekwe deserves plenty of credit for his fresh-faced portrayal of a Jann, a character who is cocky enough to be believable, but also nervous enough to make us realize that this is just a kid trying to compete with some racing big boys.

Cred Harbour as well, playing a tough-as-nails mentor role. Watching his relationship with Jann thaw and grow into something that’s almost paternal is one of the film’s most rewarding aspects.

Finally, credit the film’s multiple racing sequences. This is truly thrilling stuff, much of which is shown from the driver’s point of view.

The danger is always just around the next corner, and when the crashes do occur, it’s shocking enough to make your breath catch in your throat.

All of which adds up to an audience-pleasing underdog sports movie. The crowd at my preview screening of “Gran Turismo” started to applaud as the end credits rolled.

I’m not sure that my enthusiasm for the movie matches that, but if a non-motorsport watching guy like me could have such a fun time at this movie, I’ve got to think that true racing fans will absolutely love “Gran Turismo.”

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at